Online extra: Wedding Bell Blues: Anti-gay activist could help Newsom's bid for state office
by Seth Hemmelgarn
More than six years ago, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom first allowed same-sex marriages in the city, many thought it would hurt his chances for higher office.
But now that Newsom's running for lieutenant governor, the issue of same-sex marriage could help him.
Newsom's main opponent in the race, incumbent Abel Maldonado, a Republican, supported Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban that voters passed in 2008.
However, Karen England, executive director of the anti-gay Capitol Resource Institute, recently launched a write-in campaign for lieutenant governor that could bleed votes from Maldonado in the close race. England's move followed Maldonado's refusal to defend Prop 8 when he served as acting governor for a short time last month when Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently was in China on a trade mission.
In August, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. The ban's backers have filed an appeal. Both Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown – the Democrat running for governor in November – have refused to defend Prop 8. (Walker recently announced he's retiring in 2011.)
In an e-mail blast Thursday, England touted her endorsement from the legislative action committee of Concerned Women for America and shared a message from them that said, "Republican Abel Maldonado and Democrat Gavin Newsom have proven time and time again that they align themselves with a liberal radical agenda. ... Karen England is a pro-family and a pro-life conservative with a long track record of standing up to the liberal agenda in Sacramento. Her candidacy gives Californians an alternative option for Lt. Governor."
In September, when Maldonado was acting governor England's institute had called on him to step in to the Prop 8 case. But Maldonado had more important things to worry about at the time.
On September 10, the day after a Pacific Gas and Electric natural gas line exploded in the city of San Bruno, killing several people, England sent out a message with the subject line, "Please stop the calls!" She wrote that Maldonado's office had contacted Prop 8 backers and asked them to stop calling.
"[I]t is tying up the phone lines which are also being used to help those find emergency shelter from the San Bruno fire. We do not want to interfere with that effort."
But the disaster didn't stop people from going to Maldonado's Facebook page, begging him to file paperwork in the Prop 8 case while Schwarzenegger was out of the state. Maldonado did not take any action on the Prop 8 appeal.
Geoff Kors, executive director of the LGBT lobbying group Equality California, isn't sure England's presence will make much of a difference.
"I haven't seen much of anything of a campaign" from England, he said. "She may pull a handful of votes."
However, he said, "As an organization that strongly supports Mayor Newsom, we're happy to see the extreme right candidate running. That only will help elect one of the most LGBT-supportive politicians in the country."
None of the three campaigns provided comment for this story.
Another LGBT opponent rises to top Senate spot
If anyone was hoping for more LGBT-friendly Republican leadership in the state Senate, it looks like they'll have to wait. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who scored zero percent on EQCA's legislative scorecard for 2009, has become the new Senate Republican leader. He replaces Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Temecula), who also received a zero percent rating last year.
"It's unfortunate that the Republicans have picked one of the most anti-LGBT equality members once again to lead their party's efforts in the state Senate, especially given there are a number of Republicans who have supported some LGBT rights legislation," Kors said. One such bill was a proposal meant to increase safety for LGBT prisoners, which Schwarzenegger vetoed.
EQCA recently saw Schwarzenegger veto some bills that it had sponsored, including Senate Bill 906. That bill, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would have ensured religious leaders wouldn't be punished for refusing to marry same-sex couples.
Kors said his group will be talking to Leno to determine the next steps on SB 906, as well as on the other bills the governor vetoed.
Who the next governor is "will have a profound impact on our ability not just to pass legislation, but to get it signed into law," said Kors.
Larry Venus, a spokesman for Dutton, said the senator "looks at each piece of legislation individually," and so if it's something that makes sense, "it's something he would support."
He also said, "Senator Dutton's focus is going to be on putting people in California back to work ... whether they're straight or gay" in private sector jobs.
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at email@example.com or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.